We recently ran into Mike Richter -- one of the most successful hockey goalies in NHL history -- who led the New York Rangers to a Stanley Cup title in 1994. He is an avid environmentalist as Outreach Chair for the Sierra Club's National Advancement Council. His work helps Sierra Club reach out to a broad range of politicians and advocates in support of the Climate Recovery Partnership. So we gave him five quick questions about climate change.
What lifestyle changes have you made because of global warming?
I have done a series of practical (and fairly boring) things that have actually improved the quality of my life, rather than diminish it, while shrinking my carbon footprint: When my 1993 car finally gave in, I went to the highest gas milage car I could find -- a Prius. I'm still looking to get an entirely electric vehicle, but no luck yet. I drive less and take public transportation (metronorth RR) everyday on my commute. When the light gets a bit better I will try to ride my bike to the train. I have opted to receive all my electricity from renewable sources at my house and have made it a priority to buy locally grown produce. To that end, my family has been getting into gardening (really local).
What would you say to someone who doesn't think global warming is for real?
I attended a climate conference last year in which John Holdren was speaking. Someone asked him this question and he said that there are basically two schools of thought on the matter: Those that know climate change is real and man-made and those that are smoking dope....I would go further. I bet many of those smoking dope, even a lot of it, understand that it is real.
Really, it is about educating yourself to the facts. There's enormous consensus in the scientific community, especially among those who study this area and are therefore particularly qualified to have an opinion on the matter. The best science we have agrees that it is man-made and a threat to our survival -- yet we still have dinosaurs in the Senate and Congress that challenge it as "just a theory" (oddly enough, they all come from states that have interests in promoting fossil fuels). Remember, gravity is also "just a theory". Until the best minds in science tell me otherwise, I would not bet against that one either.
What do you think of our leadership’s handling of global warming?
The Bush administration was horrendous. Maybe worse than that. The world will be paying for his inexcusable irresponsibility for many years -- maybe forever -- you cannot get extinct species back.
On a happier note, although the job was made far more difficult by the above mentioned willful ignorance, Obama seems to get it. First he acknowledged it as a problem which, of course, is necessary. Most importantly, he's very bright and understands the need for American leadership in solving this problem and the many positive benefits to the economy, jobs, quality of life, national security, etc., created in doing so. It appears that we do not have a choice. I hope that he will be as bold as the world needs him to be.
You've just traveled back in time to London in 1750 while they are building one of the first ever coal factories. What do you tell them?
Never underestimate the level of shortsightedness and self interest; there will be people two and one half centuries into the future arguing that coal is clean. As the industrial revolution begins, make environmental externalities a crime.
Imagine that you’re Frosty the Snowman. How would you explain global warming to a child in order to alert them of your imminent danger?
"I am going to sweat my snowballs off if we don't address global warming immediately!"